The Brixton crush: What happened?

By John Simpson , and Sophie Peachey

Thousands of fans waited hours in freezing conditions for a gig that never started in a queue that ended in chaos, with two people dead.

“I wasn’t even moving - I was being moved by the crowd. I was lifted off the ground"

The biggest night of Asake’s sell-out tour was meant to be a party. How did a gig at one of London’s most popular venues end in chaos and death? 
Two people died in the crowd crush at Brixton O2 Academy on December 15.
The News Movement has gathered video and photo evidence and spoken to many people who were there on the night - and at previous Asake gigs - to understand the crush and the build up. Witnesses of the deadly crush at Brixton Academy in south London said they saw the doors forced open before a stampede that killed a young mother and a security guard, with one young woman fighting for her life.
What they said: 
  • Rumours of a special guest appearance led to increased demand 
  • Scammers were selling fake tickets, some people in the crowd used old tickets and some had none at all
  • Some QR codes weren’t being scanned
  • There was poor communication on the night
“I wasn’t even moving - I was being moved by the crowd. I was being pushed to the front. I was lifted off the ground, Amara Dimude, 34, told TNM.
“My shoe came off. I’m happy that’s the only thing I have to complain about.” 
Here’s the timeline:

7-8pm: Fans start arriving

Fans started arriving from 7pm and by 8pm the line trailed round the block to the back of the building and Astoria Walk - an alley beside the venue - was filling up. 

9pm: The pressure builds and the doors are locked

By 9pm witnesses said barriers set out to control the crowd were removed and Astoria Walk was packed. 
That was where Amara, who was in a group of six friends with her sister, was lifted off her feet and got split up from the others in the crush. 
It was at 9.04pm that London’s Metropolitan Police were called for the first time, with some fans suggesting this was to respond to attempts to force open a side door. The police told TNM the call was about “a large crowd gathering outside the venue”. 
At some point security then locked the five doors at the front of the building. Pressures then grew in the crowd and at 9.35 police got a second call saying people were “trying to force entry”.
Looking back on the night, Amara said that she felt that the venue didn’t have enough security staff on the night and that better communication might have meant people would go home, instead of standing in the cold.

10.01pm: Asake goes on stage

A young woman who asked not to be named said that inside the concert hall it was “full but not at capacity”, adding: “There was a bit of space at the back.”
She said she was excited to see the show but was receiving messages from people she knew outside saying they weren’t getting in. 
Her videos of the singer’s short performance began at exactly 10.01 and ended at 10.09pm. 
News of that eight-minute appearance spread on social media and left the frustrated crowd outside angry, Solomon said. 
“They were like: ‘What do you mean we can’t get in, we’ve come from so far…we need to get in.” So now they’ve tried to get into the door but security’s like: ‘No’”.
“And then that’s when I just saw hell break loose,” he added. 
Inside, Asake told the crowd: “They need to end the show, I don’t know why.” 
A member of his team then came on stage to tell the crowd that 3,000 people outside had “breached the doors”.

The deaths

The crowd piling in through the doors ran through the front foyer and into a middle space where double doors left and right lead into the main hall. 
Witnesses have described a stampede, with one telling the local Evening Standard newspaper she was “kicked around like a football” and another saying the event “was like a horror movie”. 
Four people were rushed to hospital for urgent care. So far just one of them has gone home - two are dead and a 21-year-old woman was still in critical condition in hospital more than a week later.
Rebecca Ikumelo, a 33-year-old mother of two young autistic children, was the first to die two days after the event. 
Her family described the nursing graduate as “adorable” and said in a statement that she “loved working with kids”. 
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Rebecca Ikumelo, 33

The second victim to die was security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, who succumbed to his injuries after four days. 
Gaby was a trained dog handler. His partner Phoebie Turley posted a picture on Facebook of the two together, writing: “My absolute world. I love you with my entire heart and soul.”
Asake stopped his show in Lagos on December 22 to hold a minute’s silence for the pair, telling the crowd: “Inside of me I feel pain for them, but may their souls rest in peace.”
One woman said: “There was girls getting stamped on. I saw a guy that was on the floor with no clothes on - they were doing CPR. It was the most traumatic experience I have ever had in my life. It was a horror movie that I didn’t think I was going to wake up from. 
“When I lost my friend I thought that is it then. I tried my best to not fall down and kept saying to people don’t fall down. I had a panic attack, people were screaming, people were fainting in front of me. It was just too much. 
“The concert would’ve been absolutely amazing if not for the people that ruined it,” she said, adding that there were people without tickets in the queue. 
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Gaby Hutchinson, 23

The warnings

Asake’s massive popularity appears to have caused crowd problems at an earlier concert in Birmingham, with some fans complaining that there had been a stampede there. Other complaints included the sound quality and videos were shared of fans booing at the Forum Birmingham on December 3. 
The singer himself tweeted a warning to fans on Sunday December 11 saying not to show up without tickets. 
The owners of 93-year-old 02 Academy in Brixton had been warned that the five doors at the front were not strong enough nearly three years earlier.  
The warning came after a crush when another afrobeat singer, Naira Marley, performed in February 2022.
The local council suspended its licence a week after the deaths. Brixton Academy will remain closed for a minimum of one month.

The tickets

Tickets were being offered for resale on a range of websites as well as on social media. Fans told TNM that scammers had been selling convincing fake tickets. 
One scammer on Facebook tried to sell Asake tickets to a reporter a week after the gig, requesting £150 each despite the venue being shut down.
The majority of witnesses said that most people outside had tickets they at very least believed were valid, but some fans said that people were using tickets from Asake’s previous gigs at the venue to get in while others had shown up planning to simply push past security. 
The venue told us: “O2 Academy Brixton is fully supporting the ongoing police investigation”. The security firm did not reply to requests for comment. 
Detectives from the Met police are investigating and will prepare a file for a coroner’s inquest.